Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nineteenth Century Boots

The Napoleonic Wars dominated the early part of this century and shoe makers became dedicated to making the military boots but as the war passed they soon adapted their skills to civilian wear. First men, then women took to wearing boots for everyday wear and this remained the vogue until the end of the 1800's when shoes became popular again.

Men's boots had high heels until the middle of the nineteenth century when the design of coaches was improved and the development of railways meant less need for horses.

According to McDowell (1989) the height of heels worn by women were equally a reflection of their preferred mode of transport i,e a coach. During the seventeenth century ladies traveled by sedan chair. In Versailles, sedan chairs were carried into the public rooms so ladies might alight on clean dry floors. The fight against dirt was everyone's concern until the introduction of metalled roads.

The slap sole was a fashionable extension added to high heeled shoes and boots. Working on a similar principle to the Eskimo's snow shoe with a bar between the heel and forefoot to increase surface contact thus preventing the shoe from sinking into the mud. The outdoor extension was called after the sound made when the sole 'slapped' the mud to the side.

Nineteenth century Dandys like Beau Brummell paid much attention to their appearance. Although there was less emphasis on ostentatious styles for men by the beginning of the twentieth century. Men’s' fashions had virtually become a uniform. This is especially true of shoes.

Until 1820, women generally wore soft flat heeled slippers for all occasions but after that, day shoes or ankle boots were widely favoured. (Black J and Anderson and Garland M, 1975)

By 1830 fashions for non-working women included boots. There was a return of the heel and the boots were worn short to the ankle, or just above. To give the appearance of daintiness, the boots were made on narrow lasts. The introduction of heelless shoes brought an end to the straight shoe. Closely buttoned or tightly laced to the mid-calf, the boot supported the ankle, presumably to reduce risk of sprains. Ladies boots were made from silk, fabric or kid leather.

A change of lacing style to side lacing proved very popular and the ankle boots were called "Adelaides" after the Queen Consort of William IV. The style highlighted the gentle contours of the female foot, presenting a vulnerable and delicate extension. Primarily the boot was to encase the female foot and ankle from temptation but probably had the opposite effect.

Bootmakers embellished their wares with silk fabrics and metallic thread embroidery. Button closures were used instead of laces to reveal shapely ankles. Cut-outs in the leather were sometimes included a playful view of colourful stockings. These boots were called Barrettes.

Heels did make a return by the middle of the nineteenth century and close fitting high button boots became the predominant fashion.

Charles Goodyear's discovery of vulcanised rubber enabled Sparkes-Hall, bootmaker to Queen Victoria in 1837 to invent the elastic gusset boot. The advantage of elasticated boots meant they could be easily removed and put on again which appealed to busier and more demanding life style of Victorian women. Although there were several teething problems by the late 1840's the fashion began to catch on. This became a prominent style in the West until the onset of World War One.

The Balmoral boot (or Bal) was originally designed for Prince Albert and consisted of a close fitting lace up boot, similar to those worn by today's wrestlers. They could be front or side lacing and acted as a galosh to protect the feet from the wet gorse. The upper section of the toe box was treated with water proofing. Queen Victoria must have approved because she had several pairs made and wore them regularly. Possibly because Prince Albert expressed a liking for the style because it had a slendering effect. Balmoral boots became popular with both men and women. After the Royal family bought Balmoral in Scotland, the Queen took to walking and this required sturdy footwear for women. This freedom reflected the growing movement for women to enter the workforce.

Well-bred women could not be acknowledged to possess anything as base and potentially carnal as legs. Indeed, it was during the Victorian period that legs were referred to as lower limbs. Crinoline as a material may have looked ridiculous but at the same time was very seductive. The steel hops that buoyed the skirt kept the material in a permanent state of motion. The slightest pressure at one point raised it correspondingly at the opposite point. This often revealed a titillating and tantalising glimpse of the forbidden flesh i.e. the female ankle.

Partly worn in honour of Wellington (1769-1852), the boot complemented the crinoline dresses and provided a foot corset enjoyed by men and understood by women.

The nineteenth century was dominated by dancing and the craze for public balls affected the dress and costume of the day. Jane Austin's novels illustrate the importance of dances to nineteenth century social life. Fancy costume balls were all the rage in America and women would create their own design themes.

Fashionable boots came in many forms including Opera boots which were highly decorated footwear. These were popular with opera goers and hence the name.

Juliets were quilted boots worn by lady's travelling in carriages. Once they arrived at their destination they would change into other shoes more suited to the occasion.

In the cold winters earthenware boot warmers were used to heat up the footwear. The piece is hollowed with a hole in the top and like a hot water bottle warm water can be added before the device is inserted into a boot.

Hi low boots or half boots were first worn as fashionable boots in the early 1800s. Made from silk or wool they laced to above the ankle. Women began to wear low, “half” boots as a practical alternative to delicate slippers in the early nineteenth century but silk hi lows were a popular choice with brides.

Victorian children wore miniature adult shoes and gaiter boots were popular.

By the middle of the century mass production meant the cost of boots became affordable to more people. No longer were they a reliable sign of status, the boot become a symbol of emerging equality not just between the sexes, but also among the social groups (O'Keeffe, 1996). The workboot started to appear and waterproofed boots designed to give women greater mobility with freedom outdoors became available.

Patent leather boots and shoes became fashionable for both men and women between 1850 and 1860.

John Lobb trained as a bootmaker in London before moving to Australia to try his luck in the goldfields. He never found his fortune in gold but instead came up with the brainwave of making hollow heeled boots for prospectors to hide their gold. The idea caught on and John Lobb set himself up in business in Sydney in 1858. When the Great Exhibition came along in 1862 he sent a pair of his boots along and won a gold medal for their quality. Twelve months later he sent a pair of his riding boots to the Prince of Wales and was awarded a Royal Warrant. He returned to London and established a business " John Lobb, Bootmaker" which continues to trade as the world's most famous bespoke shoemaking establishment.

Boots for women became more elaborate from 1850s onwards partly due to the introduction of machinery. The Bustle dress allowed more opportunity to reveal the feet. Shoes became more fanciful and elasticised boots were worn for daytime wear where at night leather slippers were preferred for formal wear. Men’s slippers were usually black and trimmed with black flat bows or black ribbon rosettes. (Bigelow, 1970,).

Carriage (overshoe or boot) shoe were made of kid leather and lined with fur. Worm by women in winter in horse drawn carriages and in early automobiles. (Rossi 2000)

In 1890, the low shoe or laced oxford was introduced. These were often worn with gaiters in colder weather or for sporting occasions. Toe shapes changed over this period but otherwise shoes and boots styles remain unchanged.

Toe shapes changed over the last three decades of the 19th century. In 1870 the square toe eas the fashion; 1880 rounded began to appear; then during the 1890s boot and shoe toes became more pointed. In 1890 rubber soled shoes were introduced. (Bigelow, 1970)

Bigelow MS 1970 Fashion in history apparel in the western world Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Co
McDowell C (ed) 1998 Fashion: the Pimlico companion to fashion Random House London
Black, J. Anderson and Garland, Madge A History of Fashion. Orbis Publishing, Ltd., 1975.
O'Keeffe L 1996 Shoes: a celebration of pumps, sandals, slippers and more New York: Workman Publishing Company.
Warren G 1987 Fashion accessories since 15000 Unwin Hyman London

Reviewed 29/05/2019

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A brief history of Brogans (English Civil War to World War I)

Brogan are heavy, ankle-high work boot made of thick untanned leather, and worn by farm workers in Scotland and Ireland as early as the 16th century. From Old Irish "bróc" meaning "shoe", these offered some protection from the wet, boggy countryside. According to Rossi (2000), a brog was a clog like work shoe made with a coarsely tanned leather upper. Brogans and brogan-like shoes and boots evolved to become sophisticated and sturdy brogues i.e. oxford shoes with wing tips often decorated with perforations (or broguing) and made with a firm leather sole and worn as a dress or business shoe.

Brogans first appeared as military footwear in the English Civil War (1642–1651), when foot soldiers were issued with rough ankle high boots. Contrary to popular belief, the armies of Cromwell and King Charles were dressed in exactly the same way. This frequently led to considerable confusion on the battlefield. 17th century brogans had side cut-outs to help with width fitting and were straight lasted boots with no right or left fitting. Until the boots had been broken-in they would be uncomfortable. The boots were initially heel-less but gradually heeled brogans began to appear. The uppers were typically made of only three pieces of leather sewn together edge to edge, two pieces at the side and one covering the instep and the toes, which could be round or square. The side pieces would extend into a strap or latchet fastening. In Britain, these continued to serve as military footwear up until the American Revolutionary War (1775 –1783).

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson wore a pair of modified brogan boots at his inauguration. The laced-up ankle bootees were made by John Michin, a Washington DC shoemaker. They cost $6.00 (today's equivalent of $US 116) and the pair of silk strings, 25 cents. This set a fashion for “Jefferson Shoes.” The term continued to mean laced shoes until the early twentieth century. Jefferson had abandoned buckles for silk laces and chose to support the ideology attached to practical footwear adopted from the French labouring classes after the Revolution. His preference for unadorned shoes were taken as a clear indication of his republicanism. Needless to say he met with criticism and the lacing style was considered effeminate. In short order bootees became a fashion trend and were generally known as “Jeffersons.”

American soldiers were issued with straight lasted brogans until 1822, when right and left boots became available. In 1851 the army changed the standard shoe from a low shoe to a higher version to end the need for the half gaiters. The demand for footwear meant the search for cheaper ways to mass produce shoes. The upper of the brogan bootee was traditionally stitched or welted to the sole. The new technique dispensed with stitching and like modular furniture, used little wooden pegs to attach the sole to the upper. Each boot had 4 holes in each side of the quarter and 2 holes in the vamp. Called ‘pegged boots,’ the uppers, made from tanned leather (rough side out) and dyed black, were formed on left and right lasts of oak. The soles were made of one or two layers of prime sole leather. Heels had hand set square nails. The new bootees were less popular and many soldiers in the field preferred the original straight lasted brogans. During the Civil War (1861 to 1865), the U.S. Quartermaster Dept. purchased some 6,082,297 brogan bootees and only 2 million were of the new boot style. According to Rossi (1993), the unpopularity of 'crooked shoes' (right and left) among soldiers was so pronounced, it took another 50 years before they were introduced to civilian footwear. Confederate troops were not charged for Russet brogans (brown, sweet potato colored shoes) because they were associated with African American slaves. Brown leather brogans or 'Ga Bootees,' were stigmatised.

Just eight years before assuming the presidency of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis was the U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. In his post, he attempted to innovate the military, including introducing new bootees. In 1858, Davis recognised soldiers often suffered with uncomfortable boots. As a result, he revised combat boot design which became known as the Jeff Davis boot, and re-equipped the army with new issue. The military work boot was worn by the US Army until the 1880s.

Samuel Putney travelled from Massachusetts to Richmond to sell shoes before forming a partnership with William Watts to establish the Putney & Watts Shoe Company in 1817. Samuel's nephew Stephen, joined them and it became Putney, Watts & Putney until 1856, when Samuel Putney quit the partnership. In 1861, Stephen Putney was given the rank of Captain and put in charge of shoe division of the Confederate Clothing Bureau in Richmond.In 1861, The Richmond Depot, (or the Richmond Clothing Bureau) supplied uniforms, footwear, and other equipment to most the Confederate States Army. The army units supplied by the Clothing Bureau were well served but as the war progressed and supplies had to come through blockades, many Confederate soldiers eventually went barefoot. In 1863, the Union and Confederate forces clashed in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, The battle involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war with between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies in the three-day battle. With the Union victors this was considered the war's turning point. On the first day of battle, Confederate general Henry Heth, had sent a portion of his division into the small Gettysburg, to search for army supplies (shoes especially), and return the same day. Not expecting to meet the Union Army of the Potomac what followed was a meeting engagement which escalated into the first bloody battle in modern history. Two years later, after Richmond, Virginia fell to the Union army (1865), the Southern States lacked the industry needed to supply the Confederate war effort.

General Robert E. Lee, the commander of Confederate forces, surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union forces, at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865. Davis wanted to continue a guerrilla war but was caught by Union soldiers trying to escape wearing a loose-fitting, water-repellent overcoat, similar to a poncho, and his wife’s black shawl over his head and shoulders. At first, in the early morning mist, the soldiers thought he and the female companion were both women, until a corporal noticed the spurs on Davis's boots. Later for political gain and to further denigrate Davis, the story of his capture was embellished to have Jeffery Davis as a coward and crossdresser. In the Northern Press, popular lithographs and staged photographs portrayed caricatures of the “President in Petticoats,” in hoop skirts and bonnets.

Soon after the war ended, President Andrew Johnson offered amnesty to those who would return property and take an oath of allegiance. Stephen Putney was given amnesty and Putney and Watts prospered. After 1880, the company established a large industrial plant in Manchester. When eight years later, William Watts died, Stephen Putney's Shoe Company moved to Richmond in 1903, shortly before Stephen Putney’s death. The factory produced the famous Battle Axe shoes, before they finally shut down in 1986. When it closed it was the end of the longest operating shoe company in the United States with 169 years in business to its credit.

By the turn of the century, the US army were continuing to use the 1882 type Campaign/Field brogan for field service. Oversupply meant a surplus had to be used and US servicemen continued to be issued with them until the turn of the century. After complaints were received the upper lacing hooks on the calfskin shoes were easily damaged and the chrome tanning process sealed the natural pores of the calfskin leather causing moisture to collect inside the shoe and blister the skin. These were replaced by the 1904 Russet Marching Shoe which were blucher styled boots. Servicemen were given three boots i.e. a field boot, a dress shoe, and a garrison shoe. The 1904 Black Dress shoe was identical to its russet counterpart except the “vamp” or lower portion was made from calfskin while the upper portion was made from kangaroo skin.

Complaints the heavy leather around the collar of the high boots caused abrasions ‘on and above’ the ankles, meant it was back to the drawing board. US Army doctor, Lt. Col. Medial Corps, Edward Luman Munson had been studying the feet of more than two thousand soldiers over a four-year period using a radiograph (x-ray) machine. Working on the assumption “form follows function,” he developed and patented The Munson last, in 1912. The resultant brogans made from the Munson last were ideally suited to the contours of the foot and incorporate a natural toe box, making them much more comfortable. The roomier Munson Army Last, gave a non-restrictive environment for the kinetic foot. By design, shoes and boots made on the Munson Army Last followed the arch and heel contours and when laced gave the wearer a totally different feel. The “Munson last” was adopted in 1912 for all service shoes, and the military footwear manufactured prior to 1905 in the quartermaster's storehouse was turned over for the use of prisoners or be otherwise disposed of. The 1912 Russet Shoe replaced both the 1904 Russet “Garrison” Shoe and the 1905 Russet Marching Shoe. It was worn for “all occasions. The Munson Army Last design was so successful that it was used exclusively on all subsequent military shoes through to the early 1960’s.

After America entered the war in 1917, it was soon realised a more durable field shoe was needed to withstand the rigors of the Western Front trenches. The first pattern of trench boots failed to provide adequate protection from the wet conditions present in the trenches. The problems with leakage were attributed to the configuration of the soles and the lack of waterproofing on the uppers. A stopgap shoe was rushed into production without sufficient testing and hastily issued but proved totally inadequate. The new 1917 Marching Shoe combined features of both the French hobnailed field shoe, and the U.S. 1912 Marching Shoe. It was made from Chrome vegetable tanned calfskin (rough side turned out) with a round toe, toe cap, and heavy, double (middle and outer) sole with 5 rows of hobnails and iron heel plates covering both heels. The bootees also had a canvas insole with a bottom filler of ground cork and cement. The shoe was a great improvement but the outer sole impregnated with a water proof solution failed to stop water soaking through. The backstay of the 1917 Marching Shoe was prone to rip in a relatively short period of use. The 1917 Marching Shoe was was modified (Specification 1269) and issued without hobnails or heel plates to troops not assigned to the trenches but in need of strong boots. These modified boots were used by motorbike messengers (dispatch riders) as well as other servicemen, including US air aces (pilots). This style of boot became ‘Engineer's boots.

Casualties were so critical in 1918, the Chief Quarter Master for the U.S. Army made recommendations to a board of officers to develop an ideal boot for trench warfare. Commander & Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) General "Black Jack" Pershing (1860 –1948) approved the proposed changes and the Pershing Boot, replaced all former models. Now made from heavier leather with reinforced backstays, and the addition of iron or brass rivets located at the side of the shoe in the area known as the ‘blucher ears.’ The boots had much thicker soles with improved waterproofing. The soles were studded with hobnails and heel plates. An additional half-moon shaped iron toe cleat was attached to the end of each shoe. The new brogans were christened "little tanks" because of their bulky appearance. The only drawback was their rigidity which hindered the natural bending of the foot. This made fitting the boot critical otherwise the Pershing Boot proved better for the cold mud of trench warfare.

The high incidence of Trench Foot meant soldiers wore two pairs of woollen socks, which required them to have boots bigger than their actual foot size. The double layer of dry socks helped prevent prolonged exposure of the feet to cold and wet conditions (cause of Trench Foot), but the rigid structure of the boot made marching uncomfortable. To address this issue General Pershing ordered the shipment of shoes sizes 5-5 1/2 length and A width to be curtailed and in doing so probably caused more doughboys to suffer from trench foot. In the theatre of war it also not uncommon for advancing troops to remove boots from the bodies of the dead enemy in oreder to replace their own badly worn or ill fitting field shoes.

After the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the need for the trench boot ceased. The design of military brogans was greatly improved during the First World War but by 1941, the US Army were again wearing garrison bootees totally ill-suited to field and combat duty. The military brogan was eventually over taken by modern combat boots (Tactical Boots) specifically designed to cope with special operations and quick-strike missions, where speed and manoeuvrability are critical. However, like the best laid schemes of mice and men, this does not always work. Modern theatre of war takes place on diverse surfaces and boots need to cope with the rigors of desert, jungle, urban and country settings. Waterproofing is important but so too is aeration with many military disasters in the recent past to support the importance of the right boot for the right battlefield. In desert conditions, for example US troops were reported slipping in their chemical-protection boots when the rubber soles were not a match for the dust. A sad sign of the times but necessity none the less the military boot of the future will protect the wearer against biochemical warfare.

Bond J Little Tanks: The Development of the American Field Shoe [Boot] During the World War Doughboy Center
Captain Putney and The Richmond Shoe Manufactory
Dunkerly RM (2015) To the Bitter End Savas Beatie
Munson LM (1912) The soldiers foot and military shoe Fort Leavenworth, Kan. [Menasha, Wis., Press of the George Banta publishing company]
Rossi W A (1997) The sexlife of the foot and shoe 2nd ed Krieger Publishing Company Malabar, Florida
Rossi W A (ed) 2000 The complete footwear dictionary 2nd Ed Krieger Publishing Company Malabar, Florida
Ryab T J (2015) Spies, Scouts & Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign Savas Beatie
U.S. Army Field Shoes 1902 to 1917 The US Militaria Forum
Wolfe B. " (2105) Shoes at Gettysburg." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 9 May. 2019.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Seventeenth Century Boots

By the beginning seventeenth century boots had become fashionable for men and were worn at the English court during the reign of King Charles I (1600-1649). It is thought the popularity of boots at court was in part due to the infant Charles who suffered osteomalacia (rickets) and learned to walk with the aid of callipers cleverly concealed into his boots by the Royal shoemaker. The adult Charles could walk without the aid of his supports but continued to wear boots for preference.

Tight fitting boots were the fashion and these were worn long and folded back into deep tops. The front flap of the boots provided a handsome strap to fit spurs onto. Later soft boots with baggy creases and full tops became the fashion at European courts. Ladies continued to wear slippers with pointed toes and in some cases high heeled pumps. (Burnett, 1926).

The Spanish city of Cordoba had been the centre for leather craft in Europe for several centuries and the term cordwainer for shoe maker relates to those craftsmen trained in the skills of the shoemakers from Cordoba. Cobblers from around Europe were sent to Cordoba to learn the fine crafts and inevitable brought them back to their own countries. Cordoban boots were of the finest quality and were made of soft leather. These were worn crumpled or with a kink. A large piece of leather shaped like a butterfly was stitched across the instep to hold the golden or silver rowel spurs. The soulette, a strap fastened under the foot also held the spur in position.

Lace edged boot hose were worn inside the boot and were made from the finest linen. These protected the delicate silk stockings from being soiled by the leather.

From 1610 boots were worn indoors, sometimes with an overshoe but this fashion became passé after the Treaty of Westphilia (1648). By the middle of the century boots were worn for riding and these sat high on the leg with widely flared or funnel tops to protect the knee when riding. Funnel flaps were turned down for town wear and by 1627 gentlemen wore light coloured boots with red heels and the edges of the boots’ soles stained red.

Poor quality boots were made from cow hide and these were heavier but more durable. Under Louis XIII (1601-1643) a shorter, lighter boot known as the Ladrine (or Lazartine) was worn. These eventually were worn with a protective sole or galosh made from thick leather or wood by which time (1630) shorter boots were worn for riding, hunting and walking.

The restoration of the Stuarts to the English thrown (1660) saw the return of the heeled boot to England. Men wore boots with very long stockings which flared at the top of the leg and caught the foot with a strap under the instep. These were worn over silk stockings. Boots made of soft leather were worn tight on the leg but the top could be turned over. The Cavalier boot had a very wide top which could be turned down for town wear, showing silk or coloured leather lining. The width of the leg had increased and the boots were worn wide across the toes. Toes became square and this fashion remained popular till the end of the century. Aristocracy preferred light, high heeled shoes and boot but the working class wore more practical and cheaper shoes, which were low heeled. Usually these were dark brown, with leather latchet ties, deep square toes and closed sides.

In 1660 Paris became the fashion capital and Louis XIV preferred shoes to boots. The new vogue for decorative frills or cannons were worn below the knee saw shoes generally replace boots as fashion footwear for men. The military boot returned at the end of the reign of Charles II (1630-85) but with a light leather leggings covering called houseaux. The heavy boot was still used for riding.

In 1663 the first seamless boot was made by a Gascon shoemaker called Lestage. King William of Orange (1650-1702) introduced the jackboot, which was of sturdy construction and worn high above the knee, quartered, and heeled with immense breadth for the toes. Thigh high boots were fashionable for soldiers and horsemen.

Worn tight on the calf they were ample enough to be folded over in a buccaneer fashion above the knee. Sometimes covered in decoration with punched designs they covered the whole leg and were held in place with garters or suspenders from the doublet. The above knee section was known as bucket tops and were worn with leathers and spurs. The boot offered protective armour to the leg and is still worn by the Household Cavalry. Before the advent of gum boots the style of boot was worn by fishermen. Foonote

Thigh high boots were originally worn by pirates and smugglers, who tucked contraband or "booty" into them. The practice gave rise to the term, "bootlegging'

Burnett EK 1926 Romantic chapters in the history of the shoe: an extravaganza The Chiropodist 204-210.

Reviewed 27/03/2019